Michael Nicholson (United Kingdom/Australia/New Zealand, 1916 — )
Music Project: Stage 3. Op.s 1-4 1977/2008
Courtesy of the artist and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision (New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound Ngā Taonga Whitiāhua Me Ngā Taonga Kōrero.)
Michael Nicholson’s early training in post-war England included postgraduate studies and a lectureship at the London Central School of Art and Design, after which he emigrated to New Zealand with his young family in the early 1950s, taking up a position in Auckland University teaching Architecture and Art. Colin McCahon included his work in the ‘Object and Image’ exhibition at the Auckland City Art Gallery in 1954. Alongside McCahon and Nicholson were works by Milan Mrkusich, Kass Jackson, Ross Frazer and Gabrielle Hope, representing an important moment for the establishment of abstract art in New Zealand.
Between 1960-1988, Nicholson relocated to Sydney where he expanded his interests into sculpture, murals, and film-making and participated in exhibitions at the Watters Gallery, the Mildura Sculpture Triennale, and the 1976 Biennale of Sydney. In 1968 Nicholson was included in the landmark exhibition ‘The Field’ that launched the new National Gallery of Victoria building, and heralded ‘Colour Field’ as a new style of abstraction set to challenge the dominance of expressionistic figurative painting in Australia.
While in Australia, Nicholson held a number of teaching positions and as artist in residence at the Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education Lismore (now a part of the Southern Cross University). It was there that Nicholson had the opportunity to work with the Scanimate, an early analogue computer animation system. These hypnotic experimental videos are in the spirit of Len Lye, New Zealand’s most prominent experimental filmmaker and sculptor, and explore the relation between sound and vision through pulsing abstract fields of colour. In 2008, the videos became the source material for the Music Project Part 3, produced in collaboration with Diane McAllen at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision New Zealand.